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How to Maintain Proper Phone Etiquette While Job Hunting

Updated on February 21, 2017
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David has over 10 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Each phone call you receive could be about a job, so you must maintain proper phone etiquette at all times.
Each phone call you receive could be about a job, so you must maintain proper phone etiquette at all times. | Source

Telephone Use During a Job Search

Maintaining proper phone etiquette while job hunting is crucial if you want to be successful in finding a job. You won't have the advantage of a face-to-face interview with the person at first, so you can't rely on body language to get you through the interview. All you have is your words.

When you are job hunting, you may be answering your phone at any time, requiring you to display a professional tone in all contacts you make.

With today's phone technology, we always have our phones on us. So this means you can be anywhere in the world and receive a call from a prospective employer. That presents risks to those that are job hunting. Risks that you should be aware of and prepare for. After-all, your future career can depend on that one phone call. Botching the phone call can result in the person having a bad impression of you which carries over to not getting the job.

A land-line phone is best when making or receiving job related phone calls.  Try to avoid using a cell phone, if possible.
A land-line phone is best when making or receiving job related phone calls. Try to avoid using a cell phone, if possible. | Source

Have you ever received a job based solely on a phone interview?

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Avoiding distractions during a phone call will help you keep control of the situation.
Avoiding distractions during a phone call will help you keep control of the situation. | Source

Maintain a Controlled Environment While on a Phone Call About a Job

One of the most important things when on a phone call about a job is maintaining a controlled environment around you. There are two reasons for this.

  1. So you can hear the person clearly when they speak to you.
  2. So that the person you are speaking to doesn't hear anything that would detract them from hiring you.

Follow the tips below when setting up a controlled environment:

  • If possible, don't use your cell phone. Cell phones are prone to cutting out at the worst possible times. You may miss key words when talking to the person, or they may misunderstand you. Or worse, the call could drop and the person may not make another attempt to contact you. So use a land-line phone.
  • If you have to use your cell phone, find a quiet spot to use it. Duck away in a room not being used to hold your conversation. Or shut your office door. The quieter it is around you, the more productive the conversation will be.
  • If the environment around you is not quiet, let the phone call go to voice-mail. As much as you want to answer that call, let the person leave a message and then call them back as soon as possible. Most employers know someone can't be available 24/7, so it would be acceptable for you to call them back when you are in a better place to speak to them. Just ensure your voice-mail message is professional.
  • Leave your personal life out of the conversation. Ask your children to be quiet before the phone call, don't discuss details of your recent vacation, etc. This is a professional phone call with someone you may hardly know at all. So your personal life will not be relevant to the conversation. Keep the conversation controlled to the matter at hand.
  • Have a pen and paper ready to take down information. You never known if you will have to take down a name, address, date, or time for an interview. Nothing is worse than someone saying they need to find a pen and paper in the middle of the conversation. It shows a lack of preparedness.

A proper greeting is essential phone etiquette when answering calls from an employer.
A proper greeting is essential phone etiquette when answering calls from an employer. | Source

Example Phone Call - Receiving a Phone Call

Prospective Employee: "Johnson Residence."

Employer: "May I speak to Tom Johnson?"

Prospective Employee: "This is Tom Johnson. Can I help you?"

Employer: "Yes, this is Jane Doe of Acme Products. I would like to schedule an interview for the management position you applied for. Would you be available next Thursday at 3:00 PM?"

Prospective Employee: "Yes, I would."

Employer: "Great. Do you know where we are located?"

Prospective Employee: "123 Main Street. What is the next major cross-street?"

Employer: "It's 1st Avenue."

Prospective Employee: "Thank you. Just to confirm, the interview will be next Thursday at 3:00 PM, at 123 Main Street, correct?"

Employer: "Yes, that is correct."

Prospective Employee:: "Thank you. I will be there then."

Employer: "Goodbye."

Prospective Employee: "Good bye."

Phone Etiquette When Receiving a Phone Call About a Job

A potential employer can call you at any time about a possible job with their organization. They may be calling you to set up an interview, or even to give you the interview over the phone. So you have to be prepared for anything.

  • Add the employer's phone number to your cell phone contacts. If you have a special ring or image come up when a certain phone number is calling, you may have some warning that it's about a job. This may not work if the organization has multiple phone lines and they call from a different number.
  • Answer the phone the same way with all calls. Even if it's friends or family calling you, having the same greeting will get you in the habit of saying it. An improper greeting would be something like "What's up?". Instead, a proper greeting would be "Hello" or "Johnson Residence".
  • Use words that clearly and succinctly say what you are meaning. For example, when answering in the affirmative, you should say "Yes". When answering in the negative, say "No". You don't want to say things like "I guess" or "I'm not sure".
  • Don't use 'slang' words. Avoid the use of any words that are used in casual conversation. If you are offered an interview, don't say "Cool". Instead, say something like "Thank you for the opportunity".
  • Repeat critical information. If you set up an interview, repeat the location, date, time, and any other relevant information back to the person. This is so you can ensure you both are on the same page and that you are taking the conversation seriously.
  • End the phone call professionally. A proper end to a phone call will be "Good bye". You should not say things like "Seeya" or "Laters".

Art of the Phone Interview

Be prepared for the person answering to take your information down if the person you want to speak to isn't available.
Be prepared for the person answering to take your information down if the person you want to speak to isn't available. | Source

Example Phone Call - Making a Phone Call

Secretary: "Acme Products."

Prospective Employee: "Hello, this is Tom Johnson. I am returning the phone call I received from Mrs. Jane Doe about the management position. If she is available, may I speak to her please?"

Secretary: "I'm sorry, she isn't available, but can I take a message?"

Prospective Employee: "Yes, please have her call me back at 987-654-3210. I would like to schedule an interview for that management position. Do you know when she may be available to return my phone call?"

Secretary: "She will be available in two hours."

Prospective Employee: "Thank you very much. Good bye."

Secretary: "Good bye."


Phone Etiquette When Making a Phone Call About a Job

Sometimes you will have to return a phone call about a job, or you received a notice to call someone to arrange an interview, or you are just wanting to inquire about a job. The above steps should be followed, but here are a few additional ones when handling these types of situations:

  • When you call the number, listen to who answers the phone. This makes a big difference. If you reach the person you want to speak with, you will say "Hello Mr. Johnson, this is John Doe and I am returning your phone call about the sales position". Or you may reach a secretary. In that case, you can say, "This is John Doe. I am returning Mr. Johnson's phone call in regards to the sales position. If he is available, may I speak to him, please?".
  • Be prepared to leave your contact information if the person you wish to speak to is not available. Since you are calling the workplace, the person may be tied up. So be prepared to offer your full name, a contact number, and what it is in regards to. Also find out when the person may be available to return your phone call, so you can be prepared.
  • Don't miss that return phone call! You don't want to play phone tag with your possible future employer. It may seem like you are not reliable if you have to return multiple messages left for you. If you know when the person is due to call, make yourself available for the call.

Acing a Telephone Interview

Always be prepared to have your job interview over the phone.
Always be prepared to have your job interview over the phone. | Source

Phone Etiquette Quiz


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Experiences in Phone Etiquette While Job Hunting

Below are a few of my own stories on maintaining proper phone etiquette while job hunting:

  • I received a call for an interview for a promotion. However, I was on vacation in Las Vegas at the time. I never heard my phone ring since I was in a busy part of Las Vegas. The phone call went to my voice-mail and the person left a message. I attempted to find a quiet spot to call the person back, since I didn't want to lose this opportunity for an interview. I did find a somewhat quiet corner, but it was still too loud. In the end, I decided to wait until I got back to my hotel room to call the person back and make arrangements to hold the interview. I didn't advise them I was on vacation, and they picked a date for an interview after I would have returned.
  • I received another call for an interview for a promotion. This time, I was home sick with the stomach flu. When the person called I made no mention I was sick. I sucked it up as best I could, and made arrangements for the interview.
  • I worked one job as an interviewer. I would call other people, interview them, and determine if they could have the job. The job I was interviewing others for involved a lot of walking. One person I called said he didn't want to walk at all, which is what you don't want to say if you want a job. Another person advised me that her boyfriend was moving in with her, and it would be a bad time to start a job. Someone's personal life shouldn't come up in the course of a phone conversation about a potential job.

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